Water Quality Management

The Water Quality Management Section provides services in support of the Department's mission by protecting, maintaining, and where necessary, improving the quality of Manitoba waters and aquatic ecosystems. This mandate is accomplished through the application of the best available scientific knowledge, the principles and policies of sustainable development, and through the practical and innovative management of risks.

The Water Quality Management Section is comprised of ten full time professionals, support staff and often several students with expertise in various areas of aquatic ecology, water chemistry, biology, limnology, statistical analyses, and other related disciplines.

Partners, Stakeholders, and Clients:

The Section provides technical and scientific support to a varied array of partners, stakeholders, and clients including; Indigenous communities, Government of Canada departments, neighbouring international and provincial jurisdictions, provincial government departments, municipalities, consultants, industries, volunteer lake and stream stewardship groups, conservation districts, non-governmental organizations, students, educators, and the public.


The objectives of the Water Quality Management Section are:

  • To develop, implement, and regularly update routine, long-term programs intended to protect and maintain water quality and the health of Manitoba's aquatic ecosystems;
  • To develop and implement programs to respond to water quality issues that can be addressed through intensive, short-term activities;
  • To respond promptly to urgent water quality issues and environmental emergencies that could impact aquatic ecosystems and human health;
  • To provide educational materials and support to the public on water quality to foster greater awareness and to empower local stewardship;
  • To provide leadership within Manitoba, within the Canadian prairie region, nationally within Canada, and internationally within watersheds shared with the United States in the development and implementation of coordinated water programs that are responsive to present and to long-term future needs, issues, and pressures.

To achieve these objectives, the Water Quality Management Section:

  • Operates a long term water quality monitoring network on major streams, rivers and lakes, including at recreational beaches assisted by volunteers, organizations such as conservation districts, and regional personnel. Long-term water quality information is necessary for the assessment of trends, loading and ongoing issue analysis to meet the Section’s mandate and objectives.
    • Water quality monitoring activities are conducted at more than 65 sites across Manitoba. Up to 150 water quality variables are measured at most sites throughout the year.
    • The benthic, or bottom invertebrate community, are also monitored and assessed at a number of sites on a periodic basis.
    • Analysis of both water chemistry and the structure of the invertebrate community assist in determining ecosystem health. Water quality and invertebrate data continues to be routinely requested by external stakeholders, and are used extensively by the Department, for example, to determine assimilative capacity prior to making discharge licensing decisions under The Environment Act.
    • The quality of water is monitored at more than 60 beaches across Manitoba. Information on beach water quality data and advisories related to Escherichia coli, algal blooms and swimmers itch is made available on the Government of Manitoba's Clean Beaches Program website.
  • Manages water quality data in a secure, user-friendly system that meets complex, on-going needs of the Section, Department, clients, and partners.
    • Water quality data for Manitoba are available by contacting:
      Water Quality Management Section
      200 Saulteaux Crescent (Box 14)
      Winnipeg, Manitoba R3J 3W3
      Phone: 204-945-0002
  • Undertakes issue-based, site-specific studies on an as needed or emergency basis. Studies assess point and non-point source impacts arising from agriculture, mining, forestry, municipal discharges, and others.
  • Co-operates with industry, government, and others to protect water quality from impacts related to agriculture and industrial activities.
  • Leads, supports and participates in scientific studies to better understand impacts of human disturbance on ecosystem structure and function.
  • Develops and recommends water quality standards, objectives, and guidelines to protect water quality and ecosystem integrity. The Manitoba Water Quality Standards, Objectives, and Guidelines, which are enshrined in a regulation under The Water Protection Act, include protection of groundwater in addition to surface water, protection of broader ecosystem integrity along with updated standards, objectives, and guidelines for over 100 materials.
  • Implements programs and policies to reduce nutrient loading to Manitoba’s rivers, lakes and streams. The artificial enrichment of streams, rivers and lakes with plant nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen is one of the major water quality issues in much of North America. Virtually all activities including municipal and industrial discharges, agricultural activities, forestry, golf courses, cottages and residences plus many others contribute nutrients to rivers, lakes, and streams.
    • In December 2001, a comprehensive technical report was completed that describes the findings from an assessment of trends over about the past 30 years in nitrogen and phosphorus at 46 water quality monitoring sites on 33 streams in Manitoba (link to Trend Report. (PDF 13.5mb).
    • In November 2002, a technical report was completed that provides a preliminary estimate of total nitrogen and total phosphorus loading to streams in Manitoba.
  • Implements the Nutrient Management Regulation under The Water Protection Act.
  • Collaborates with Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, and others to monitor Lake Winnipeg and conduct research to improve our understanding of nutrient and algae dynamics.
  • Monitors and evaluates the health of Lake Winnipeg through periodic reporting on the physical, chemical, and biological data collected as a part of the Lake Winnipeg monitoring program.
  • Provides significant support to develop integrated watershed management plans, locally-based plans aimed at protecting the quality of the province’s water resources.
  • Provides technical and scientific support to a variety of clients, including other government agencies, the public, and stakeholders, and recommends activities to alleviate or abate specific concerns.
  • Since over 70% of Manitoba's surface water originates from other jurisdictions, the Water Quality Management Section plays a major role in ensuring that transboundary water quality is protected and of sufficiently good quality to meet our needs.
    • Works cooperatively with neighbouring jurisdictions to protect Manitoba’s water quality from upstream developments, including participating in the International Joint Commission’s International Red River Board and International Souris River Board, the Prairie Provinces Water Board, and other multi-jurisdictional task forces and committees.
    • Significant support is provided to oppose the interbasin transfer of water and the threat posed to Manitoba from projects such as the Devils Lake outlets.
    • Provides technical assistance in the development of policies related to the management of transboundary water issues. Water quality information is collected in the development of cooperative, basin-wide approaches to maintaining and rehabilitating water quality.
    • Provides leadership within Manitoba, Canada, and internationally within watersheds shared with the United States to develop and implement coherent and coordinated water quality strategies that are responsive to present and future needs, issues, and pressures.
  • Addresses non-point source pollution problems through informal partnerships with cottage-owner associations, lake and stream stewardship groups, conservation districts, municipalities, and other local authorities. Water quality information is collected where necessary, and cooperative, basin-wide approaches to maintaining and rehabilitating water quality are developed.
  • Educates volunteers and local citizen groups to foster greater awareness and empower local stewardship. Activities include presentations, short non-technical articles for newsletters appropriate to the audience, and comprehensive widely-distributed documents such as the Manitoba Water Protection Handbook.
  • Monitors mercury concentrations in fish tissues and develops guidelines for the consumption of recreationally angled fish from Manitoba waters. The guidelines are derived from Health Canada recommendations.
  • Reviews and comments on proposals under The Environment Act, The Dangerous Goods Handling and Transportation Act and others and provides recommendations to mitigate potential impacts on water quality.
  • Manages acquisition of on-going, high quality laboratory analytical services for the Department.
  • Provides expertise and guidance in the development of departmental strategies, priorities and policies with implications for water quality, including integrated watershed management and drainage.
  • Liaises with and participates on committees with other departments, jurisdictions, and agencies and participates in the development and implementation of interdepartmental and inter-jurisdictional programs, initiatives, and strategies.
  • Assists in the development of Federal/Provincial agreements and Memoranda of Understanding to facilitate and strengthen collaboration between Manitoba and the federal government to address key water quality issues.
Lake Winnipeg water quality monitoring Lake Winnipeg water quality monitoring Lake Winnipeg water quality monitoring DFO ship Namao

Water quality monitoring on Lake Winnipeg